When I left for the writing workshop and retreat at Limnisa on the Greek peninsula of Methana two weeks ago, I was hoping that the trip would give me new inspiration to work on my writing. However, me being who I am, I was also overcome with feelings of anxiety and apprehension. What if, despite these ideal circumstances, my mind remains trapped within this barren landscape devoid of ideas and fantasies and I still am not able to make any significant progress with my writing? Am I then forced to conclude that the noble art of writing is not suitable for one the likes of me after all? And what if I can’t get along with the other people, or more likely, what if they can’t get along with me because I’m being such a bore? Sigh… in other words I was overcome by the same worries that always trouble me no matter what I’m doing. You would have thought I would have learnt by now. Fortunately, these worries did not offset my initial enthusiasm, and with the power of hindsight, I can now safely say that these were completely unwarranted, and that the last two weeks have exceeded even my wildest expectations.
The most appropriate way to start my discourse is to bestow a very heartfelt and well-deserved thank you upon our most hospitable and intelligent hosts Mariel and Philip. It is they who have built up Limnisa and have made it available to aspiring writers like myself. Philip is also the one teaching the (English) workshop, and I have gained lots of insight and inspiration from him, but more on that later. They are great company and they have done absolutely everything within their powers to make us feel at home and accommodate our needs. The food especially warrants a special mention. Be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, every single meal, without doubt prepared with natural ingredients and a healthy dose of love and care, has been a feast upon our pampered palates. How fortunate we were indeed, and how dreary it is to imagine that before long I might revert back to a more unhealthy and less satisfying diet of microwave dinners and delivery pizza’s (although I do very much enjoy pizza – surely one of my greater sins).
Apart from Mariel and Philip, I of course got to spend time with the other participants, and it is they who have made the retreat even more memorable that it already was. There were Jinja, Rosemary, Alan, Becky and Charlotte, who made up the British contingent of our fellowships, and then there were Mirella, Alida and myself, who made up the Dutch contingent. I can personally attest that each of these esteemed individuals represent the very finest that the human race has to offer, and their many, many qualities go far and beyond my own hopelessly inadequate ability to heap the appropriate amount of praise upon them, and all I can say is that I feel honoured that I was allowed to spend time with such a diverse, but ultimately like-minded, group of smart, beautiful, funny, lively and, above all, inspiring people.
On to the sceneries then. Again, I am afraid that any words I manage to conjure up on my keyboard cannot possibly do justice to the true beauty of Limnisa and Methana, and besides, the sights and sounds are too many to describe them all here. My only hope then is to offer you a few choice images — both visual and verbal – that might spark your own imagination and desire. Imagine, for example, the soothing sounds of the gentle waves lapping softly against the rocks on the coast, inviting you to immerse yourself into the sea to wash away your fatigue and revitalise your body while the afternoon sun shines brightly high up in the clear blue sky. Or imagine, as the afternoon slowly transitions into evening, the shimmering sunlight upon the surface of the sea, as if a path of gold has emerged from the depths, and as the evening deepens, the sky starts to take on a mystical red hue as the sun slowly vanishes into the water. Or perhaps you prefer to imagine yourself simply walking along the roads of Methana, while your eyes gaze upon the numerous ancient and characteristic olive trees and rocks, until you start to wonder the many age-old tales they could tell you if only you would listen hard enough. Or you can imagine the tiny, charming villages, the hike up the volcano, the breathtaking panoramic views as you go higher and higher… As I mentioned earlier, too much to describe here.
Obviously, the whole point of coming to a writing retreat is to work on my writing, so how have I fared on that part? As I mentioned earlier, Philip is teaching the workshop I attended during my first week (with Jinja, Rosemary and Alan), and he does this with many exercises and games, surprises and twists, and questions and suggestions to spark your imagination and force your mind to come up with new ideas. The purpose of the workshop is to work towards a (more or less) finished first draft of a short story, and I am happy to say that I have succeeded. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever finished an entire story, so I am thrilled, and I would even go so far to say that I am quite proud of the result, and with a few tweaks I might try submitting it to a few literary magazines for publication. Whether something substantial will come out remains to be seen, but on the whole I have become more positive towards the quality of my own writing.
The second week was different, as I did not attend the workshop anymore and, suddenly saddled with loads of additional time, I instead worked on my own project. I have to admit that the enthusiasm and the anticipation I felt during the first week (probably not sustainable anyway for a long period) had waned a little by then, but I still managed to write significantly more than if I had done so at home. Also sadly, most of the others have gone home after the first week, and only Becky, Alida and I had remained in Limnisa. I still had a lot of fun with them, mind you, but it obviously felt a bit different from the first week. It also felt more like a ‘holiday’, as I spent more time reading, sunbathing, swimming or just plain relaxing, which I sorely needed as well.
As you may have deduced by now, these past two weeks have been an undeniable blessing for me (apart from the time when I kicked a sea urchin full in its non-existent face with my bare foot), and it was without any exaggeration that I say I have never felt more content or at peace with myself before, and some of the others have expressed similar sentiments. If by any chance you have dreams and ambitions of your own to become a writer, I highly recommend you to travel to this magical place called Limnisa (and to also attend the workshop if you can) and let yourself be inspired by the people and the environment. If your interest is now sufficiently piqued, just visit the website www.limnisa.com (or the Dutch version: www.liminisa.nl) to get an impression.